“I WANT TO ENJOY LIFE”
AFTER THREE DECADES IN THE SPOTLIGHT, DANNII MINOGUE IS LIGHTENING UP – IN BOTH HER CHOICE OF HAIR COLOUR AND HER APPROACH TO LIFE
Dannii Minogue talks motherhood, Kylie and why, after three decades in show business, she’s stopped caring about what people think of her.
Dannii Minogue has been going since before dawn after a late-night flight into town, and having danced her way through four hours of Stellar’s photo shoot, she’s now reclining on a soft couch in a warm patch of sun.
It’s clear the petite 45-year-old would love nothing more than a quiet nanna nap before she heads back to Sydney airport to fly home to Melbourne, but with a packed publicity schedule before a dinner date with the man in her life, sleep will have to wait.
“I don’t want to keep anyone waiting around,” she explains as she shrugs off her tiredness, musters a smile and switches on.
It comes as no surprise the younger Minogue sister is a trouper, given she’s been in showbiz since primary school, first in Young Talent Time in Australia and later as a TV star here and in her second home of London. But for a long time the narrative surrounding Minogue was that she was the edgy and troublesome counterpoint to pop-star sister Kylie, who at three years her senior was already a household name in the UK when Minogue headed over there in the 1990s.
Prominent roles as a judge on Australia’s Got Talent and The X Factor in both the UK and Australia have in the past decade made Minogue a huge name in her own right in both countries, but back then there was intense focus on the rebellious little sister cast in Kylie’s shadow.
“It was all just this great good vs. evil battle, and they don’t like each other, and all of these headlines,” Minogue says. “It didn’t matter what we said or did, it was a great story that people liked to run.”
Most journalists continue to still ask her about Kylie during interviews, and her response is practised: “If anybody wants to know anything about Kylie then they can ask her.
“My only concern is that it’s her story and her privacy,” she explains. “It’s the same with the rest of my family, it’s just protecting their privacy.”
What she is more than happy to talk about is that previously mentioned man, her six-year-old son with former partner, British model and recent recruit on this year’s season of I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!, Kris Smith.
Ethan, who is in Year One at a Melbourne primary school, is the reason she moved back home to Australia six years ago after so long in Britain.
“I was very adamant that I didn’t want to live half there, half here anymore,” she says of the move. “I just can’t do that and keep up the school routine, and be with my son, and I want him to have the school experience and not the homeschool experience.”
Minogue quit The X Factor last year and has just returned to our screens co-hosting BBC series Let It Shine, where she and former Spandau Ballet bassist Martin Kemp are among a panel assembling a cover version of boy band Take That to star in a year-long West End stage show. “Time-wise it just ticked every box,” she says of the new role. “I love the positivity, I love the people who are in it and behind it, and what the end goal of the thing is for the people who are in the competition.”
But being a single mother and working for weeks at a time in the UK to keep up her bi-continental career does require an intricate juggle. “It’s quite hectic with the logistics. If I’m not working or doing something with [Ethan], I am organising what’s going to happen next,” she explains. “You have to be organised, but I think any parent has to be, just to deal with it all. You have to be organised to get the kids to school, to get lunches done.
“But I think it’s important that I am doing what I said to Ethan that I really enjoy, so he sees that I am fulfilling the stuff that I want to do, too. I just don’t want it to be taking away from time that I’ll miss out on with him, that I won’t get back again.”
Being an older mother – she was 38 when Ethan came along – has been an unexpected blessing for Minogue, who says that not only is she a far better parent at this age than she would have been earlier in life, but that the experience has changed her.
“I wouldn’t have had the maturity to do it before,” she says. “It’s a more selfish time when you are younger, and I wanted to do everything, I wanted to work everywhere, I wanted to travel, and I did. So I guess I can enjoy it more now.”
This more mature Minogue is also relishing the freedom of not worrying so much about what people think of her.
“I think as I am getting older I am just: ‘Who cares? If you make a mistake, you make a mistake,’” she says.
“You have to just enjoy life, be relaxed. I have a very fortunate life, so why stress?” Motherhood has also taught her the importance of looking after herself and making time to take a break.
“Because I have worked for so long, I’m able to take long stretches of time off work, which is great,” she says.
“But I feel like I’ve earned that. There’s not many people who have worked solidly since they’re seven. Like, I should be retiring now. So it’s OK to take time off, and it’s OK to go to work and do stuff that I want to do.”
After a relatively long hiatus, we are going to be seeing a lot more of Minogue in coming months. She’s starting a new role as a mentor to the nominees in this year’s Logies for the Most Outstanding Newcomer category, and has just been appointed the first Australian celebrity muse for L’oréal Professionnel, who has lightened her brunette locks using its new product Smartbond.
“I have wanted to go blonde for ages and my manager wasn’t very keen on it, and my mum was like, ‘No,’” she says. “And you know, [Smartbond] is really cool because I can do it and then safely decide I can just change back the colour without any damage. Because, on a screen, you can see so closely now. You can see every hair, every pore, everything, so I have to look after those things because of the work that I do on TV.
“I keep reminding myself that most people have a TV in their lounge room that’s this big,” she says, spreading her arms.
Balancing the public and private Minogue – she has for two years been in a low-key relationship with musician Adrian Newman, about whom she is reluctant to comment – is another aspect of her life she’s happy with.
“I only do this for work,” she says, motioning to her perfectly made-up face. “It’s not how I am or who I am. I don’t dress up at home. It doesn’t go with my lifestyle; I’m not running in heels to school.
“I just enjoy being a mum, it’s the greatest thing and I just go for it. I mean, I love the creativity here and at work, where we can create pictures, create movement, create songs, create TV shows. But then there’s me outside of that.”
And what’s taking up the time outside of her career is celebrating the small milestones that bring such colour to a life with children. She’s proud her boy is nailing his swimming lessons and now it’s all about riding his bike without training wheels, a task she is sharing with the rest of her Melbourne-based clan.
“We are concentrating on trying to learn to ride a bike, which is probably the most stressful thing for me,” she says of their plans for the last week of the school holidays.
“I am one of those mums who says, ‘Don’t go too fast; don’t do that.’ And then thinking back to me learning to ride a bike, I was scared and my dad and my brother were pushing me, saying, ‘You just need to go.’
“So I have asked my dad and my brother, ‘Can you help?’” Minogue laughs, and then takes a deep breath before venturing a prediction. “We’ll get there.”
``I have a very fortunate life, so why stress?´´
DANNII WEARS Salvatore Ferragamo jacket, 1300 095 224; BOSS dress, (03) 9474 6304
HAIR & MAKE-UP Michael Brennan